A blog about family, food and fun!

Month: June 2017

Easy Vegetarian Burritos

Easy Vegetarian Burritos

We have been trying to eat both healthier and cheaper in our house and besides beans one of the ways I have been trying to do that is to add more squash into our diet.  I love squash.  I am really excited about our zucchini […]

Gardening Update June 19, 2017

Gardening Update June 19, 2017

We have had some excitement in the garden this week. Our plants are continuing to grow super fast from our week of excellent sun and we harvested our first few strawberries.  I got some more seedlings planted and we spent quite a bit of time […]

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 2: Jam Making

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 2: Jam Making

A few days ago I posted about our strawberry picking and how we froze and dried the berries.  We have been snacking on the dried berries all week and they are delicious!  On top of drying and freezing our berries we also made two batches of strawberry jam.  My husband and I love to make jam together so it took us a couple of days to coordinate our schedules so that we had enough time to finish.  We kept the berries in the fridge and they were still delicious.  You can store some varieties of berries such as Rainiers in the fridge for a few days before you make jam but others such as our favorites shuksans need to be processed as soon as they are picked.  We had picked regular can be kept in the fridge strawberries so we had time to wait.

 

If you are new to jam making it is really important to do your research first.  There are a bunch of awesome books and websites out there that walk you through the steps to process your canning jars safely and with minimal risk for spoilage.  Some of my favorite are:

 

USDA Home Preserving website

The Ball Book of Canning (The canning Bible)

Signs of Spoiled Food by Live the Old Way

 

There are many many more and a quick Google search can find you what you are looking for.  We used the instructions that came in our box of Sure Jell Pectin for both batches but for the second batch we added a little bit of fresh squeezed lemon juice.

 

 

We wanted a “lower sugar” jam which you can do with strawberries but it still used 4 cups of sugar so don’t be fooled into thinking it is actually low in sugar, it just means you use less sugar to process it. Before you do any canning you have to make sure all of your jars, utensils and surfaces are clean and sterile.  I always wipe down the counters and put a clean dry towel down to work on.  We ran our canning jars and bands through the dish washer on the sterilize cycle.  Before we placed our lids on our jars we put them into the boiling water for a few minutes to warm up the seals and kill any germs on them.  We used the Kerr brand wide mouth jars and lids but any of the brands are fine.  We just got a good deal on them so that is what we use.

 

 

The first thing we did was measure out and crush our strawberries.  For the first batch we used a potato masher for chunky jam and the second batch we used an immersion blender to make a smoother jam.

 

 

Then we measured out our sugar and spit it into two bowls and added the pectin to one.

 

 

Hickies - No Tie Elastic Shoelaces

 

 

Next we put our crushed strawberries into a pot and added the first batch of sugar/pectin.

 

 

We stirred that up and brought it to a boil.

 

 

Then we added our second batch of sugar and brought it to a rolling boil again for one minute.

 

 

Then we quickly poured it into our jars, leaving about 1/4 inch of head space.  We used this Ball canning kit I found at our local grocery store to make sure we had the correct amount of head space in the jars.

 

 

Yum! Chunky strawberry jam. We opted not to skim the foam off but many people like to do that so that their jars look prettier.  We won’t be giving a lot of it away so for us it wasn’t a big deal.

 

 

Next we wiped the jars clean with a paper towel so that they would seal correctly.

 

 

Then we used the little magnet thing to put the lids on the jars without touching them and screwed on our bands to finger tight.

 

 

Next we made sure the water in our canning pot was fully boiling and then we added our jars, brought it to a boil again and left them in there for 10 minutes.

 

 

This year I broke down and bought the special tongs for pulling the jars out of the water and let me tell you they are amazing.  I don’t know how we went without for so long. They make it so much easier and I wasn’t worried at all about the jars slipping so if you only buy one canning tool I highly recommend the jar grabbing tongs.

 

 

After our jars were processed we put them on another clean towel to cool.  We check them the next morning and only one of ours did not seal so we will be eating it this week.  I am not complaining, our jam turned out delicious!

 

We had a great time with our strawberries this week and I feel much better about eating our own jam rather than buying some in the store that may or may not have high fructose corn syrup.  I am already thinking ahead to raspberry season in July and how much raspberry jam I will be eating. Raspberry is my favorite and Costco has been out for months.  I fully plan on canning a bunch of raspberry so that we don’t run out this year!

 

What types of jam are you making this season?

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Jam by Sure Jell

June 17, 2017
: 8 cups
: 20 min
: 60 min
: 80 min
: Medium

Make your own strawberry jam!

By:

Ingredients
  • 12 cups whole strawberries (6 cups crushed)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 1 package Sure Jell Low Sugar Pectin
Directions
  • Step 1 Use a dry measuring cup to measure exactly 12 cups of strawberries with the tops cut off.
  • Step 2 Measure exactly 4 cups of sugar into a bowl.
  • Step 3 Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar from the bowl with 1 package of Pectin in a small bowl.
  • Step 4 Crush your strawberries and measure out 6 cups of crushed strawberries into a pot.
  • Step 5 Add your sugar/pectin mixture and bring to a full boil on high heat, stirring constantly.
  • Step 6 Stir in remaining sugar and return to a full boil. Boil exactly 1 minute, stirring constantly.
  • Step 7 Remove from heat and skim off foam with a metal spoon if desired.
  • Step 8 Immediately pour into prepared jars, filling within 1/4 inch from the top.
  • Step 9 Wipe jar rims and threads, cover with lids and screw bands tightly.
  • Step 10 Place jars into boiling water making sure they are covered with 1-2 inches of water.
  • Step 11 Process for 10 minutes or adjust time based on Altitude.
  • Step 12 After the jars are processed remove from the water and place on clean towels. Check the seals after the jars have cooled down.
  • Step 13 Let jars stand at room temperature for 24 hours before storing in a cool dry place for up to a year.

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 1: Drying and Freezing

Strawberry Picking 2017 Part 1: Drying and Freezing

When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup.  We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try […]

Family Day- Fishing and Farm Visit

Family Day- Fishing and Farm Visit

My three year old developed a sudden interest in fishing last week. She somehow brought it up and was asking all about how fishing worked and if we could go.  We had a birthday coming up in our family (plus Father’s Day) so my husband […]

Mom’s Night Out

Mom’s Night Out

Last fall one of my good friends called me up wanting to know if I was interested in seeing New Kids on the Block (NKOTB) with her and a few of her friends. I was pretty hesitant since I am not a late night, crazy concert going type of person but I was in kind of a rut with being home with my kids so I said yes. At the time my son was about seven months old, had never been left with anyone (including my husband), still nursing every two hours around the clock and refusing most solid foods. I told myself he would be weaned by his first birthday and because it was six months out we would be able to leave him with all sorts of people by then.

 

Of course my son decided to follow his own schedule. A week before the concert I texted my friend and told her I wasn’t sure if I could go because, get this, my son was still nursing 4 or so times a day and before sleeping and I could not get him to stop. That’s right. My son had back to back colds all winter into late spring and since he would not eat many solid foods or take any form of sippy cup, bottle, straw or regular cup I was not allowed to wean him until he got better to prevent dehydration. It was a long season of sickness for us.  We had also only left him one time at night with family and it was only until a little past bed time so I could nurse him late if he refused to sleep.

 

I decided to bite the bullet and try to go to the concert and it was the best decision I have made in a long time! I really focused on weaning my son the week before and was able to put him down a couple of times without nursing at bed time and my husband had no problems putting him down that night, and the next night as well since I went to my oldest daughter’s high school award ceremony without the little kids. I am pretty sure we are at the very end of nursing and it is very freeing. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding, but this is my third kid and I have had a hard time with all three of them.  My son was the most difficult of the three and I was very ready to wean him by a year so the extra few months was really wearing on me.

 

 

My advice to my fellow worn out, exhausted, over touched but love your kids so much moms is to do something unexpected every once and a while.  Reach out to someone new, try a new experience or just get out of your comfort zone for a bit.  I had an awesome time at the concert and my kids were so much better behaved after being away from me for a while. I went and I sung my heart out, danced for hours and came home and crashed in bed immediately.  I never would have sung and danced like that before I had my kids, and I have been to a lot of concerts.  I have always been the shy person that might not even stand up for the entire concert so for me to be loud and not care was a huge change.

 

There was a magical energy in the arena as if all of the moms (and there were a ton of us) were free of their obligations and for this one night we were young again, dancing and singing our hearts out. NKOTB put on a very professional well laid out concert. Boyz II Men and Paula Abdul opened which was awesome because I had forgotten how much I loved their music.

 

Boyz II Men

 

I am not someone that usually takes photos as concerts because the always turn out terrible but I took a few to show my husband because I missed him.  He and I used to go out every few months to concerts when we only had one kid and she was gone every weekend. I really miss that. I miss dating him and having time together where we could talk about real things besides what the kids are doing or how we need to plan our budget for the next whatever time. Now that I am finally able to leave the youngest I fully plan on hanging out with my husband alone in the near future.

 

Blurry NKOTB!

 

So fellow moms, don’t forget to take care of yourself and get out once in a while. I really needed this time out and I am sure many of you do to!

 

 

Science Fun with Baking Soda and Vinegar

Science Fun with Baking Soda and Vinegar

My daughter loves to play with baking soda and vinegar. She always helps me deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring the vinegar down the drain and making bubbles.  Today my son got to watch and he was fascinated.     We were talking about how […]

Hummus from Scratch

Hummus from Scratch

We have always been big fans of hummus. For a long time we bought organic canned garbanzo beans and made hummus from those but we have been trying to make as much of our food from scratch as we can so about a year ago […]

Gardening Update June 5th 2017

Gardening Update June 5th 2017

We had a really busy week this week with playdates for the younger kids and prom for our oldest.  There were errands to run and the one year old didn’t nap all week. Both little kids must be growing through a growth spurt because I spend a lot of time feeding hangry (yes hangry) kids who had been fed an hour prior and then having to run to the store because we some how were out of everything. There was a lot of cleaning up of messes and my husband and I spent all of Sunday working on cleaning out the garage. We made a lot of progress and I feel much better about it.  We just need to add another shelf to the ceiling and some along the walls for our gardening stuff and we should be mostly done. Ug. It was both exhausting and fun hanging out with the kids this week but we didn’t get a lot of gardening done.

 

I spent most of my time weeding and cleaning up the back yard.  I didn’t have a lot of time so I pulled the biggest weeds from the asparagus bed, around the fruit trees/bushes and in the back around the deck/huckleberry bush.  I found the biggest Stinky Bob plant I have ever seen underneath the huckleberry bush. It was easily three feet across. They are native here so they are everywhere in our back ravine and luckily they are easy to pull once they get big enough.  My teenager also spent quite a bit of quality time with her sister pulling ivy along our back slope in preparation for the back fence.  Getting the back area clear will be a family effort but well worth it once the fence is in and we can let George out to roam.  I didn’t get any pictures of her efforts because I was busy in the garage (which I didn’t take pictures of either because it was a huge embarrassing mess).

 

 

Our indoor seedlings are past the point of needing planting but I was waiting on our trellises to come in the mail. I ordered them from Gardeners Supply Store a few weeks ago but you can also find something similar on Amazon and they will come much quicker since I had to wait almost three weeks for them to ship which was kind of a pain. I am going to plant my Luffas along the red three panel trellis and my three year old and I planted some pole beans under the bamboo stakes to create a bean tepee for her and her brother to play in.  She was very excited! I let her choose beans or peas. My kids love their vegetables and peas and green beans are their favorite. I am really glad she chose green beans because I am not a fan of peas and I have been having to eat them quite a bit lately so that I am modeling good vegetable eating behavior.

 

 

My Luffa plants are doing well. I have been hardening them off all week and they should be ready to plant some time this week.  I am really excited about them but also nervous because we just started out gardening and these are a little unusual.  I have some bottle gourds that are ready to plant as well but I am in need of another trellis for them to climb.

 

 

I used some Earth Staples to anchor the trellis and some of the soaker hoses down.  I plan on anchoring more of the soaker hoses down but I am waiting for after I add another trellis or something for the gourds to grow on.  I probably need to use a splitter with my soaker hoses so there isn’t so much wasted water but I am still trying to figure out a good configuration for them. I am afraid that if I bury them I will forget where I put them…

 

 

Our green bean trellis is looking good. I am hoping it will be fun for the kids to sit in and sneak eating beans while I work in the garden.

 

 

Our pumpkins and squash are doing well with new growth and lots of flowers.  I am hoping to get at least one good sized pumpkin and I know that the zucchini will probably over produce so I plan on freezing a bunch of it for the winter since I am the only on that really likes it.  I only have two plants in the garden and a couple still in their red cups but I don’t think I will be planting the extras since two zucchini plants it probably enough for us.

 

 

After I worked in the vegetable garden I spent some time looking around the rest of the yard while my husband and son watered the asparagus and the front garden bed.

 

 

My gigantic bush by our front door is abuzz with bees.  It is really pretty with all of it’s white flowers and the way it is shaped.

 

 

We also have these pink flowers that are stunning. We almost killed these last year when we planted the asparagus. They die back every year and the previous owners must have cut them back before they put the house on the market so we had no idea they were there until after they had been stepped on. They did not bloom last year but this year the bush is much bigger and has several big blossoms. We have really enjoyed the anticipation of waiting for the flowers to finally open. Our three year old has been checking them daily for progress which has been fun to watch.

 

This week I am going to continue to do bi-weekly watering, try and plant my luffa plants and maybe the gourds or my leftover cucumbers. We also have a ton of cleanup work to do in the yard for the oldest’s graduation party in two weeks (time has flown by too fast!) and to get the back ready for a fence.  Our strawberries are starting to ripen and we got one berry off of them this week which the three year old promptly ate.  I did find some unwelcome visitors in the garden this week and I used a non-toxic solution to hopefully get rid of them but that is for another post!

 

Happy gardening everyone!

Indoor Gardening

 

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